Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Potty Time at the Crag…

…Not to be  confused with “party time,” although getting through it successfully might  very well warrant a celebration!  After packing in (and out!) hundreds and perhaps maybe even thousands of diapers over the past several years, hiking into the crag big boy (or girl) style is a milestone every crag-parent is psyched about.  We’ve actually just recently dove into the potty training arena ourselves, and have been pleasantly surprised to find the transition at the crag happening quicker than we’d expected.  


As a little background, I’m a firm believer that kids will hit developmental milestones when (and ONLY when) they are ready, whether it’s crawling, walking, sleeping independently, talking, potty, blah, blah, blah.  That being said, we have always taken the laidback approach when it comes to these sorts of developmental issues, some of which can be quite controversial, and all of which have been documented in countless parenting books.  Potty training was no different – we waited and watched for signs of readiness.  We did try once this past winter over Christmas break, but a random (yet surprisingly intense) fear of the potty kept us from making any progress, so we abandoned ship after just a couple of days.  There was no more mention of it until the beginning of the summer (a couple of months after he turned 3), when we made the switch straight  from cloth diapers to big boy undies for every activity other than sleeping.  After a few days of accidents and endless laundry, C caught on to number 1, and about a week later, we had the first successful number 2. 

My mom used to be a chemist at the wastewater treatment plant (and that’s only slightly cooler to tell people now than it was in 8th grade), and my dad and I always used to joke around that she was “Number 1 in the Number 2 business!”  I certainly make no such claims about myself – for C it happened at the right time for HIM, which may or may not be the right time for your  child.  I know plenty of kids that were potty-trained much younger than C, as well as plenty of kids that were in diapers much longer.  So please take the following logistical “techniques” with a grain of salt, and expect your mileage to vary.  (And if your still living in the indefinite diaper period, check out this archived post about crag diaper logistics.)

WATCH AND LEARN:  Bathroom etiquiette is different at the crag than it is at home.  Its just a fact of life, so talk to your child about it (it’s probably less awkward than other facts-of-life conversations that will happen later on down the road.)  Heart to heart convos aren’t necessary, but simple observations can make a lasting impression (ie, “See how Daddy is watering this tree?”)  Just as it’s important for your child to see you using the potty at home correctly, it’s also important for them to see you appropriately take care of business in the Great Outdoors as well.

When nature calls...

When nature calls…

BYOP (Bring Your Own Potty): Pooping in the woods is an art form that doesn’t develop overnight.  A portable potty can help ease the transition from diaper to potty to any of the interesting diagrams shown in this picture.  C’s modus operandi consists of several “false alarms” in the minutes (and sometimes hours!) before the official drop, so having a portable potty station for him to play near and get too quickly is essential.  The Potette was a life saver for us – it’s basically just a plastic ring with legs that pop out to make an instant potty!   It’s lightweight, cheap, and allows C to have something comfortable and familiar until he gets a little more predictable.  I obviously just have a boy, but my guess is that a portable potty like this would come in handy even more often with a little girl… The Potette comes with disposable liners to catch the waste, but we’ve never found those necessary – C likes the fact that he can place the potty wherever he wants and just go directly in the hole and onto the ground.  With number 2’s, you can either dig a cathole or use a wipe to pick it up and pack it out in a ziploc baggie.  A nice thing about the “pack it out” option is that you can set your potty station up closer to the action.  As a side note, it’s also worth mentioning that the legs can fold out to fit over an adult-sized toilet – perfect for small children who have a hard time securing themselves comfortably over a giant “hole.”

HAVE A BACKUP PLAN: Whether it’s cloth, disposables, pull-ups, or just 10 extra pairs of undies and shorts, make sure you’re prepared for accidents.  The last situation you’d want to be in is hiking out early (and frustrated) with a wet (or worse) child.  Those sort of “extras” add relatively little weight to your pack, but bring a lot of peace of mind. 

DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY:  At the end of the day, we’re talking about going to the bathroom in the woods here, not balancing chemical equations.  Take them outside often enough, and even the least enthusiastic of learners will eventually “get it.”  Ironically, C does SIGNIFICANTLY better pooping in the woods than he does pooping in the potty at home.  Go figure.  The phrase about no kid going off to college in diapers is obnoxious to hear, but I’m betting it’s still the truth.  

Who else has been through potty training in the woods and come out on the other side?  What tips and tricks have worked for YOUR family?  For those of you fast approaching this milestone, what will your strategy be?  







6 Responses to “Potty Time at the Crag…”

  1. I am frequently appreciative that our little boy can go #1 just about anywhere, and am grateful that he’s also pretty regular with #2 such that we can typically plan around it.

    I echo the fold up potty (which we still keep in the car all the time (ours even has a removable seat we can throw in the diaper bag for big potties).

    And backups! We also keep a wet bag with extra clothes and undies with us for accidents!


  2. We were going to wait as long as humanly possible to potty train our kiddo. I was sure it was going to be awful and messy. But the day we told him it was ok to use the big-kid potty at daycare (at about 2.5 yrs) was the day he decided that he didn’t need diapers any more. It was so much easier than I expected!

    At the crag, we’ve been keeping him in pull-ups, and yes, I bring an extra one or two. He’s cool with doing number 1 just about anywhere (aren’t all little boys?) but has never tried a number 2 at the crag. At the campsite, we bring his little potty from home and he hangs out around the fire/picnic table/trailer and get’s ‘er done.

    Ok, funny story about little kids potty at the crag! When some old friends first moved to Fort Collins, we took them over to Rotary Park (local historic bouldering/TR area) for a few routes and to introduce our kids to each other. Their 3 year old daughter was just post potty training, and announced that she HAD TO GO NOW. Of course it was a number 2. Non-climber Dad wisked her off down the hill. He came back an announced he had found a perfect spot in a “cave” below that boulder over there. I realized that he just let his daughter poop in the LZ for the Eliminator – a classic and historic John Gill test piece! So we all went back to clean it up, and had a little discussion about better places to go to the bathroom at the crag. 🙂


  3. You’re so lucky to have a boy when it comes to this! Let me tell you about years and years of helping my daughter squat only to have her pee all over her pants and underwear (and sometimes my hand or shoe!) If anyone has any suggestions for girls, let me know. She’s 6 and we still haven’t mastered it and I have a 1 year old who will need to know the best way to squat in a year or so!


    • Erica

      Jill – What kind of potty do you guys use? The removable seat idea sounds intriguing.

      Kate C – That story is hysterical. 🙂 So far the only mishaps that we’ve had is that C and I were hiking along the cliff base (so, far away from our potty station), and C proclaimed he needed to go. He sometimes has trouble identifying whether he needs to go 1 or 2, so at first he said pee, but then as soon as I got his pants down, it started coming out both ends…right on the trail! We then had an impromptu lesson about digging catholes and used a stick to push the evidence into our belated hole (much farther off the trail…)

      Aimee – That’s a hard one for sure. I know a lot of adults that even have a hard time with it (and I’m not going to pretend that I’ve never peed on my pantlegs before…) For number 1’s, there’s always this option: I’ve got one and it’s actually come in handy several times on crowded days at the crag when it’s impossible to find a private spot. I’m not sure how it would work with a child though…it might just be better to keep bringing extra clothes for a while.

  4. We have that some potty, just a different color! Abby is not even one year old yet and we pretty much have her potty trained! She still wets her diapar now and then, but she already poops and pees in the potty. We just give her plenty of “pottytunities” and sometimes she even fusses to let us know she has to go. Had you told me a one year old could be potty trained before we had Abby I would have thought you were crazy.


    • Erica

      I’ve heard of really young kiddos going to the potty. I guess some kids just “get it” right away. Then you have little boys, who are far too comfortable sitting in their own messes 😉

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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN